Instagram Ad formats: Best Practices for Effective Ad Creative

In this post

With 2 billion monthly active users, over 2 million advertisers and sitting as the sixth most visited website, Instagram is right behind Google and Facebook when it comes to the most popular advertising platforms. 

Paired with the ability to evolve its capabilities, you’ve got a platform that compulsively hooks users and advertisers.

With so many advertisers on the platform, there is a lot of competition. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to have the correct creative assets and ad formats set up for the success of your campaigns and goals. Whether it’s a physical product, software or brand awareness, make the biggest impact possible by utilizing all that Instagram offers. 

In this article, I’ll break down Instagram’s ad formats, what content works best for each and the requirements needed. 


With humble beginnings as a photo-sharing app, it’s no wonder that image ads are the bread and butter of Instagram. As the simplest way to get your brand, messaging and products in front of audiences on Instagram, it’s also a great jumping-off point for the beginning of any advertising campaign.

Best Practices

  • Ensure that your creative has strong imagery that immediately captures the users’ attention.
  • Make your call to action easily identifiable and clear.
  • Make sure your creative speaks to your audience/industry. With the new Meta Advantage Plus Audiences, your creative is your targeting.


Having rolled out in 2021, Reels are a newer format to Instagram but have quickly become popular with organic content creators and advertisers alike. Instagram has seen an 80 percent increase in the amount of time users spend watching videos on the platform (SocialPilot), meaning the chance of catching a customer at the right time as they scroll through Reels is higher than ever. The most important thing to know about Reels is that it is not the same as regular video content on Instagram — Reels has unique features and abilities that videos do not.

Differences between Reels and Video Ads

Vertical based creative
Time limit of 90 seconds
Promoted Reels shown in Reels tab of Instagram
Usually horizontally based creative
Time limit of 60 minutes
Promoted videos shown in main feed

On top of Sponsored Reels, there is also the Reels on Ads placement, that is an overlay on Reels sponsored by a different company/brand than the creator of the Reel.

Sponsored Reels

Reel sponsored by the company that created the content

Ads on Reels

Promotion on the Reel separate from the content

Best Practices

  • Leverage eye-catching visuals and content that fills the whole screen.
  • Make your offer/call to action clear within the first few seconds of the video.
  • Make content that doesn’t seem like an advertisement for longer watch times and better engagement. 

Video ads

On Instagram, videos get 21.2 percent more engagement than images on Instagram, so it’s easy to say that the format has taken social media by storm. Videos allow creators a more expansive way to get their message across and increase results, whether it be for brand awareness, sales, or leads. With the right visuals, sounds and storytelling, a compelling video ad can make all of the difference in your advertising plan. 

As described above, Reels and videos have some similarities but the differences are stark. Video ads are shown in feed and can be up to 60 minutes long (but shorter is always better than longer). Another difference between Reels and video ads are that video ads are shown directly in the users main feed alongside organic posts, giving advertisers the ability to “blend in” with organic content.

Best Practices

  • Grab your audience’s attention within the first three seconds of your video. Users scroll fast so creating content to capture their attention is imperative. 
  • Make your offer/call to action clear within the first few seconds of the video.
  • Create videos that can be consumed without audio. Many users scroll through without sound on, so do not rely on audio to get your messaging across.


Carousel ads present an opportunity for unique storytelling within the ad space unlike any other placement. While they are perfect for showcasing multiple products, carousels are also a great way to capture and engage your audience. Use images that span several cards, creating a new type of immersive experience for the user.

Best Practices

  • Use strong creative on each slide
  • Ensure that the headlines on each slide correlate with the creative 
  • Use a clear call to action on each slide

Stories ads

Stories are an immersive way to connect your audience with your brand between user’s personal Stories posts. With its full screen experience and high engagement, eye catching creatives are key. Another way that Stories ads are unique is when the CTA is clicked, the link swipes up and brings the user to the landing page. Stories ads can be done with both images, video and carousels.

Best Practices

  • Utilize all of the space you have. Besides Reels, this is the most space you have to advertise.
  • Make your Stories ads blend in with user’s posts for the biggest impact.

The explore tab is a great way to find new content and accounts on Instagram. Every explore tab is curated to each individual account, so this is a great way to get in front of users who have yet to discover your brand but fall within your customer profile. 

Promoted ads can appear in the grid of the explore tab with the Explore Home placement, as well as in the explore feed once a user clicks on a post and starts scrolling.

Explore ads

Explore Home

Instagram Explore

Promoted content can be both images and videos, all falling under the same guidelines as image and video ads.

Best Practices

  • For Explore Home placements, be sure to use an eye-catching creative that sounds out so users are more inclined to click on your ad.
  • Follow best practices for video and image ads for success with Explore ads

You May Also Like